Immigrant Farmworkers Win Major Victory in Struggle with Fast-Food Industry


Contact: Amanda Shanor, RFK Center for Human Rights, 203-247-2195, or Todd Howland, RFK, 202-463-7575 x 236

Louisville, KY—Today the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) will announce with Yum Brands that it has reached an agreement that ends the CIW’s nearly four-year-long boycott of the restaurant giant and Yum Brands subsidiary, Taco Bell. This agreement—reached because of consumer demand—is a groundbreaking first step toward establishing socially responsible purchasing practices within the fast-food industry, while realizing concrete gains for the tomato pickers whose labor supplies Taco Bell’s nationwide franchises.

In 2003, three members of the CIW became the first U.S.-based human rights defenders to be awarded the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award. Since that time the RFK Memorial Center for Human Rights has supported the CIW’s innovative work to achieve equal rights for farmworkers and the end of slavery in U.S. fields.

The Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights commends all parties for their efforts that led to this landmark event and applaud Taco Bell and Yum Brands for their leadership within the fast-food industry.

Founder and board member of the RFK Memorial, Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) stated, “Years ago, Robert Kennedy stood with Cesar Chavez and the farmworkers of California in their epic battle for fundamental human rights. He would have been proud to stand with the Immokalee Workers today in their ongoing battle for fair pay and fair working conditions in the tomato fields.”

Todd Howland, Director of the RFK Center for Human Rights concurs: “Taco Bell has shown that companies can and should reach for a standard higher than their bottom line—that major corporations can be part of the solution to human right abuses instead of merely profiting off of the poverty of others. It’s now time for other fast-food industry leaders to follow suit to ensure that those who pick our food are treated with dignity.”
Founder and board member of the RFK Memorial, Mrs. Robert F. Kennedy continued: “It’s great to see the tomato pickers get a long- deserved boost now that Taco Bell has taken the lead in fast-food corporate responsibility.”

“This is a great victory,” said Congressman Lewis (D-GA) and RFK Memorial board member, “for the champions of social justice and equality in America and around the world. The courageous men and women of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers prove that standing strong in the struggle can remove the greatest obstacles, even the resistance of a goliath in corporate industry. This victory once again confirms that the methods of nonviolence can win deep and lasting change in the most powerful institutions of the world, in American government and in corporate conglomerates. I applaud all the Coalition workers who struggled and suffered for years to win greater equality for American workers.”